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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.

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  1. Council of Carthage To Investigate Pelagianism, May 1, 418

    Synopsis: After Coelestius appeared before Pope Zosimus for examination and was vindicated and after reading the letter and confession of faith that Pelagius had sent him Zosimus sent letters to the North African bishops declaring Coelestius and Pelagius to be orthodox, criticizing the African bishops conduct, and representing Heros and Lazarus (the two deposed bishops who had brought charges up against Pelagius for his Diospolis (Lydda) trial) as being wicked men, whom he had punished with excommunication and deposition. In response to these letters the African bishops assembled sometime around the end of 417 or beginning of 418 and in a Synodal letter to Zosimus declared “that he should hold to the sentence pronounced by Pope Innocent against Pelagius and Coelestius until both of them distinctly acknowledged that for every single good action we need the help of the grace of God through Jesus Christ; and this not only to perceive what is right, but also to practise it, so that without it we can neither possess, think, speak, or do anything really good and holy.” Zosimus responded by affirming that he had already given the affair of the Pelagians his mature consideration, but added that he had transmitted all the documents to the Africans for the purpose of common consultation. This letter reached the hands of the Africans towards the end of April 418, and on the 1st of May they opened a new great or General Synod in the Secretarium of the Basilica of Faustus at Carthage. Bishops were present not only from all the provinces of Africa, but even from Spain, in all no less than two hundred. They composed eight or nine canons against Pelagianism, and eleven others, partly directed against the Donatists and partly concerning general matters.

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  2. The Canons of Dort

    The Canons of Dort . RATIFIED IN THE NATIONAL SYNOD OF THE REFORMED CHURCH . Held at Dordrecht in the years 1618 and 1619. The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands is popularly known as the Canons of Dort (or the Five Articles Against the Remonstrants).
     
    The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands is popularly known as the Canons of Dort (or the Five Articles Against the Remonstrants). It consists of statements of doctrine adopted by the great Synod of Dort which met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618–1619. Although this was a national Synod of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, it had an international character, since it was composed not only of sixty-two Dutch delegates, but also of twenty-seven foreign delegates representing eight countries.

    The Synod of Dort was held in order to settle a serious controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism. Jacob Arminius (1560–1609), a theological professor at Leiden University, departed from the Reformed faith on a number of important points. After Arminius's death, forty-three of his ministerial followers drafted and presented their heretical views to the States General of the Netherlands on five of these points in the Remonstrance of 1610. In this document and even more explicitly in later writings, the Arminians, who came to be called “Remonstrants,” taught (1) election based on foreseen faith, (2) the universal merits of Christ, (3) the free will of man due to only partial depravity, (4) the resistibility of grace, and (5) the possibility of a lapse from grace. They desired the Reformed church's doctrinal standards to be revised and their own minority views to be protected by the government. The Arminian-Calvinism conflict became so severe that it led the Netherlands to the brink of civil war. Finally in 1617 the States General voted four to three to call a national Synod to address Arminianism.
     
    The Synod held 154 formal sessions over a period of seven months (November 1618 to May 1619). Thirteen Remonstrant theologians, led by Simon Episcopius, used various tactics to delay the work of Synod and to divide the delegates — tactics which proved to be unsuccessful. Under the leadership of Johannes Bogerman, the Remonstrants were dismissed. The Synod then developed the Canons which thoroughly rejected the Remonstrance of 1610 and scripturally set forth the Reformed doctrine on these debated points, now popularly called “the five points of Calvinism”: unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of saints. Though these points do not embrace the full scope of Calvinism and are better regarded as Calvinism's five answers to the five errors of Arminianism, they certainly lie at the heart of the Reformed faith, particularly Reformed soteriology, for they flow out of the principle of absolute divine sovereignty. They may be summarized as follows: (1) Unconditional election and faith are sovereign gifts of God. (2) While the death of Christ is abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world, its saving efficacy is limited to the elect. (3,4) All are so totally depraved and corrupted by sin that they cannot effect any part of their salvation; in sovereign grace God irresistibly calls and regenerates the elect to newness of life. (5) Those thus saved God graciously preserves so that they persevere until the end, even though they may be troubled by many infirmities as they seek to make their calling and election sure. Simply stated, we may say that the subject matter of the Canons is: sovereign grace conceived, sovereign grace merited, sovereign grace needed and applied, and sovereign grace preserved.

    Although in form the Canons have only four sections, we speak properly of five points or heads of doctrine because the Canons were structured to correspond to the five articles of the 1610 Remonstrance. The third and fourth sections were purposely combined into one since the Dortian divines considered them inseparable, and hence are designated as “Head of Doctrine 3/4.”
     
    The Canons have a special character because of their original purpose as a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute during the Arminian controversy. The original preface called them a “judgment, in which both the true view, agreeing with God's Word, concerning the aforesaid five points of doctrine is explained, and the false view, disagreeing with God's Word, is rejected.” The Canons also have a limited character in that they do not cover the whole range of doctrine, but focus on the five points of doctrine in dispute. Each of the main heads consists of a positive and a negative part, the former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, the latter a repudiation of corresponding Arminian errors (see shaded parts below). In all, the Canons contain fifty-nine articles of exposition and thirty-four repudiations of error.

    The Canons form a remarkably scriptural and balanced document on the specific doctrines expounded. They are unique in being the sole Form of Unity composed by an ecclesiastical assembly and in representing a consensus of all the Reformed churches of their day. Both Dutch and foreign delegates without exception affixed their signatures to the Canons, whether of supralapsarian or infralapsarian persuasion. A service of thanksgiving was held upon the Canons' completion to acknowledge the Lord for preserving the doctrine of sovereign grace among the Reformed churches.

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  3. Charles Hodge - Systematic Theology 3 Volumes

    The magnum opus of one of America's most prominent theologians offers an in-depth exploration of theology, anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology. This monumental work, now a standard for theological students, was written while Hodge served as a professor at Princeton, where he permanently influenced American Christianity as a teacher, preacher, and exegete. Includes a comprehensive index.

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  4. Westminster Confession of Faith

    The Westminster Confession of Faith, drawn up in the 1640s by an assembly of 151 theologians (mostly Presbyterians and Puritans) at Westminster Abbey, is the standard of doctrine for the Church of Scotland and many Presbyterian churches throughout the world. Several other denominations, including Baptists and Congregationalists, have used adaptations of the Westminster Confession of Faith as a basis for their own doctrinal statements. In each case, the Westminster Confession is considered subordinate to the Bible.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith is a systematic exposition of Calvinism, written from a Puritan viewpoint. It was originally drafted to reform the Church of England and to unify the various Christian sects in England at that time. The document addresses doctrines such as the Trinity, the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, sola scriptura, and sola fide.

    The Westminster Assembly first convened in 1643, and the Confession was published four years later. Also at that time, the Assembly produced two other important documents, the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The Shorter Catechism contains 107 questions and answers concerning God as Creator, original sin and man’s fallen nature, Christ the Redeemer, the Ten Commandments, baptism, Holy Communion, and the Lord’s Prayer. The structure of the Westminster Catechism follows the earlier Heidelberg Catechism (1562) of the continental Reformed churches. The first and most famous of the questions in the Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

    From about 1537 Protestant Reformed groups in Europe had seen the need to draw up their own formal doctrinal confessions. This need arose in England after King Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome in 1536 and the 1545 convening of the Council of Trent, which marked the beginning of today’s Roman Catholic Church. Under the rule of England’s Charles I, many Puritans in England dispersed, and civil war broke out in 1642. The Puritan parliament then called a church synod—the Westminster Assembly—to lay the foundation for a Reformed Church of England. The resulting document did not solve all the religious and political strife in England, but it did provide a brilliantly written and influential statement of biblical doctrine. The Westminster Confession of Faith is considered by many to be the best statement of systematic theology ever framed by the Christian church. As an attempt to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), the Westminster Confession of Faith has stood the test of time and remains a prime doctrinal standard for Protestants and evangelicals everywhere.

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  5. Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God by Johnathan Edwards

    Summary of the Sermon
     
    Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut, is an appeal to 'sinners' to recognize that they will be judged by God and that this judgment will be more fearful and painful than they can comprehend. Three themes stand out as particularly important for understanding Edwards's approach to his message:
    Corrupt sinners face a fearful judgment.
     
    Time is short for the unrepentant: God's righteous wrath will come suddenly and unexpectedly.
     
    It is only God's free choice that extends the 'day of mercy' and provides another opportunity to respond to his call.
     
    Each of these themes is made more potent by the use of vivid metaphors, which are the heart and soul of Edwards's emotional appeal to his listeners. We'll look at each of these themes in order and examine some of the key metaphorical language that Edwards uses to make these points.
     
    Corruption and Judgement
     
    Edwards pulls no punches when it comes to condemning the sinfulness of human beings. Those who belong in the unrepentant category may be those who are outwardly wicked and reject God, or they might be people who are complacent. They could belong to a community of people who believe, and they think they can ride that community's or family's coattails to avoid judgment. But Edwards's view of sin is that it's an active force in the world that's ultimately controlled by the devil. Anyone who hasn't experienced an inward renewal or 'awakening,' as had the many who had been converted during this time, are considered a servant of the devil: 'They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion.' This way of portraying 'sinners' emphasizes their helplessness, precarious position, but also the nastiness and corruption of their ways.
     
    Some of the metaphors that Edwards uses to portray the situation of unbelieving human beings make this point clear. He describes even the greatest, most powerful rulers in the world as 'feeble, despicable worms of the dust' and as 'grasshoppers.' In Edwards's most enduring image, the sinner is described as 'a spider, or some other loathsome insect,' which God is dangling over the fire in preparation for destruction. Each of these metaphors reiterate how puny, weak and disgusting the sinner is in the sight of God. There's no room for pride here and no room for justification. They can't simply be respectable or admirable - they must be 'born again.'
     
    According to the sermon, the judgment of God awaiting such sinners as those described above will be truly terrifying. As would be expected, the image of the fire is central in descriptions of hell, following in line with the Biblical texts about judgment. But Edwards's descriptions are particularly strong, such as when he describes the 'dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God.' He also incorporates images of an infinite pit as descriptive of the judgment, drawing theologically on Scriptural texts about the abyss and psychologically on the primal fear of falling: 'you have nothing to stand on, nor anything to take hold of.' Combining the two, Edwards describes this chasm as 'wide and bottomless . . ., full of fire and wrath.'
     
    God's judgment just isn't fearful, but it is truly violent. Picking up on a Biblical theme of the grapes of wrath, the sermon gruesomely describes God's retribution against sinful human beings: 'He will crush out your blood, and make it fly . . . so as to stain all his raiment.' And once this judgment begins, there's no turning back and 'your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain.'
     
    The Fleeting 'Day of Mercy'
     
    Edwards's sermon can't be divorced from the time in which it was written. With the many conversions and the increase in religious zeal during this time, many people saw these seemingly unprecedented events as signaling an important moment in the Christian faith. Edwards certainly seems to imply this. It's as if, with many flocking to him, the example is set: 'Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners.'
     

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  6. NIV Theological Bible

    Biblical Theology allows you to ponder the individual stories and themes of Scripture while observing how they all fit together in God’s grand biblical narrative.

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  7. The eternality of hell: a refutation of Annihilationism

    Reformed Theological Seminary: The thesis of this paper is that the doctrine of Annihilationism is both unscriptural and inconsistent with historic Reformed teaching.

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  8. Principles of Biblical Interpretation by Louis Berkhof

    This pdf covers the history of hermeneutical principles, the proper conception of the Bible, grammatical interpretation, and historical and theological interpretation.

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  9. The bondage of the will by Martin Luther

    For context, Luther, is responding to some of Erasmus' assertions in support of our natural moral ability to obey the gospel. Erasmus presupposed that all of God's commands to obey proved that we had the "free-will" to do so. Luther, with great wit and irony exposes why free will is an erroneous, unscriptural doctrine which, ultimately, undermines the gospel itself.

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  10. Basics of the Reformed Faith - by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger

    When someone begins a statement with “I think God is like…,” I immediately know that this person doesn’t have a clue as to what God is like. The reason I can say this is because God is an infinite spiritual being, which means that we can know nothing about Him unless He has revealed Himself, which He does through creation and in His Word. While creation tells us that God is eternal and all-powerful (Rom. 1:20), the creation cannot tell us that God is triune, nor that He sent His eternally begotten Son to save us from our sins. The knowledge of these things must be revealed to us in God’s Word, in which we find the supreme revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ (John 14:9). This is why when someone attempts to tell us what God is like apart from Scripture — where God chooses to reveal Himself — we can be sure that all they can give us is mere opinion. And since all men and women are liars (Ps. 116:11), such opinion is apt to be wrong, no matter how sincerely offered (Rom. 1:22–23).
     
     

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  11. Covenant Theology: A Biblical, Theological, and Historical Study of God's Covenants by Dr. J. Ligon Duncan

    The study of Covenant Theology is a topic vital to pastoral ministry and, frankly, to Christian ministry of any kind. And so I am convinced that the time that you put into your study will be well spent. It will pay not only you dividends but the people of God whom you serve dividends for years to come.

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  12. Thirty-Six Sermons by John Calvin

    The following are hand picked sermons of John Calvin, chosen for their God-honoring excellence and tendency toward the edification of the saints.

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  13. John Calvin - The Institutes of the Christian Religion

    Published first in 1536, the Institutes of the Christian Religion is John Calvin's magnum opus. Extremely important for the Protestant Reformation, the Institutes has remained important for Protestant theology for almost five centuries. Written to "aid those who desire to be instructed in the doctrine of salvation," the Institutes, which follows the ordering of the Apostle's Creed, has four parts. The first part examines God the Father; the second part, the Son; the third part, the Holy Spirit; and the fourth part, the Church. Through these four parts, it explores both "knowledge of God" and "knowledge of ourselves" with profound theological insight, challenging and informing all the while. Thus, for either the recent convert or the long-time believer, for the inquisitive beginner or the serious scholar, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a rewarding book worthy of study!

    This copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion was translated into English by Henry Beveridge (who died in 1929) and was first published in 1845.

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  14. Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

    Berkhof's standard, systematic treatment of the doctrines of the Reformed faith -- his magnum opus -- with his Introduction to Systematic Theology. Written in a scholarly yet simple style, and completely outlined and indexed, the work includes a thorough bibliography, and questions for further study follow each section.
     

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